New Domain!

We are excited to tell you that we have a new website! Please continue the conversation at:

Don't forget to update your links!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

All-New Domain!

Faithful readers,

I am pleased to announce the grand opening of our new website on our (generously donated) private domain:

Thank you so much for your feedback, your comments and questions, and thanks for making this first edition of What Do Mormons Believe so successful. At our new website we are committed to continue bringing you more insight into Mormon perspective.

If you have any bookmarks or links on your personal web pages, please update them to take you to our new domain. If you haven't put up any links to our site...well, get to it!

Again, we thank you for and welcome continued participation.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blacks, Mormons, Priesthood, Racism, Answers

First: Are there racist Mormons?

Answer: Yes. Sadly.

Second: Is the LDS Church a racist organization?

Answer: NO. From the Book of Mormon, "[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile" (2 Nephi 26:33).


Racism in all its forms is disgusting. It is an evil wholly at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ and has a pernicious effect on society. Those members of the LDS Church and other faiths that have race-superiority issues (which they often try to base on scripture or statements of church leaders) are in sin.

However, such people in the Church are few and far between. My personal experience in the Church has been a wholly positive one. I have attended church services in Brazil, China, Mongolia, Germany, and in various congregations in the United States and have witnessed firsthand the unity that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings as people of varying ethnicity worship together. Growing up I had a black foster sister. Admittedly, Mikayla was in the minority attending church with my family in the predominantly white state of Utah. Naturally, Mikayla would ask questions about it. But not once in the years I sat beside her in the chapel pews did I witness any form of racism against her. I love that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a multicultural church (more members live outside the U.S. than within) welcoming sons and daughters of God of all ethnicities.

I am willing to admit there are problems. Racism is a resilient poison that people in the U.S. and elsewhere have had difficulty purging. Just because overt acts of racism don't occur publicly often doesn't mean it isn't present beneath the surface. And yet I think the church is doing well. Plus, we can hardly point a finger at others; are any of us truly free of hurtful prejudice of any sort? Let's pray we all continue to do better. Do better together.


Next topic: Why was priesthood denied to black male members of the church prior to 1978?

Our age of click-and-publish internet ramblings has brought with it a barrage of ill-supported commentaries which force the modern reader to be a skeptic of everything he or she reads. In light of this, I have tried hard to cut through the haze and get an accurate answer to this controversial and sensitive question. The answer I found: there is no satisfactory answer.

Some clamor that the priesthood ban was a product of traditional racism in early America; that it was a church policy based on unrighteous social norms. They have their evidences. Some insist that it was a divinely inspired command from God. They have their evidences. Still others claim it was a church policy based on correct doctrinal principles. Likewise, they have their evidences. The Church itself hasn't said anything official and definitive on the subject. A paucity of facts invites much diversity of opinion. As far as I'm concerned, it also makes any opinion on the subject merely speculation.

What I do know is that a prophet of God received a revelation on Thursday, June 1st, 1978 that enabled all worthy male members of the church to receive the priesthood. I know that it was a day of rejoicing. And it wasn't the first of its kind. It was reminiscent of the New Testament scene where Peter told the new members of the church that God had revealed to him that the gospel of Christ was now to be preached to the Gentiles. It was a policy change in the church: a policy change God gave (as He often does) without explanation. Acts 11:18 gives their reaction to Peter's news, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God."

In closing I say to white members of the church: Be careful in how you explain the priesthood ban to yourself and others. Perhaps Alma Allred in his essay "The Traditions of Their Fathers: Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings" (found in the book Black and Mormon edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith) was near the truth when he urged white members to, instead of looking for what blacks did to receive the ban, look at themselves to see if they were the cause.

And to all members of the Church and other curious truth seekers: if it really bothers you, do the research. Come to your own conclusions. But remember that there aren't always definitive answers. God moves in mysterious ways. Our Old Testament friend Naaman was confused when he was commanded to go wash in Jordan seven times to be made clean (2 Kings 5:10). God didn't explain but he had faith and did it anyway. There are plenty of things I don't understand, yet I can get by with the limited light I have. I do try to learn all that I can-I am not satisfied with ignorance. But I recognize that the ignorance and incomplete understanding that does remain with me is mine and not God's.

This takes you to an official church site touching on the subject.

Suggested further reading:

Bringhurst, Newell G. and Smith, Darron T. Black and Mormon. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Bringhurst, Newell G. Saints, Slaves, and Blacks the Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981.

Embry, Jessie L. Black Saints in a White Church Contemporary African American Mormons. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993.

Lund, John Lewis. The Church and the Negro a Discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the Priesthood. Salt Lake City: Paramount Publishers, 1967.

Taggart, Stephen G. Mormonism's Negro Policy Social and Historical Origin. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1970.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Bible: A Testimony of Jesus Christ

Q. Do Mormons believe in the Old Testament?

Yes, we do believe in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is full of symbolism and prophecies that support the New Testament's testimony of Jesus Christ and point to our days as well. It may be difficult to understand at times, but with careful study, the whole of the Bible has been a wonderful source of inspiration in my life. It has a long history of inspiration and continues to inspire people today. I'd like to address a bit of its history and content as well as what we believe concerning the Bible.

The Bible (from the Greek biblia, meaning "books") is a collection of writings by many authors collected and compiled over the course of a many centuries. The two parts, the Old and New Testaments, are separate and distinct from one another. The Old Testament is comprised of histories and personal writings of prophets and the New Testament is a collection of some of the writings of early Christian leaders. A prophet of the Old Testament such as Isaiah, for example, would have a vision, write it down and it would be eventually compiled with his other writings. Isaiah had a vision of the throne of God and His glory which became Isaiah chapter 6. Isaiah had many visions, teachings and life experiences, some of which make up the 66 chapters in his book in the Bible. Jeremiah had his visions and teachings as did Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, Nahum, Malachi and other inspired men, including prophets mentioned in the Bible whose books are not available to us. All of those teachings were given to the people living at the time for the purpose of reminding them of the Lord their God. As often as they forgot, the Lord sent prophets to remind them of His will toward them. This was usually to persuade the people to abandon the worship of false gods and return to obedience and service to the only true and living God.

The New Testament picks up chronologically over 400 years after the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi. It begins with a book written by a man named Matthew, whom we later learn to be an apostle personally chosen by Jesus. Matthew gives us his testimony concerning the gospel (a word meaning "good news," which is the good news of Christ's atonement) and the coming of Jesus Christ, His ministry, teachings and death. Matthew quotes scripture from the Old Testament many times to support his testimony that Jesus was truly the Messiah and Savior of all mankind. The next book, authored by Mark, offers another testimony of the same Jesus Christ. As does Luke and also John, the beloved. Those four books make up everything we know about the life and ministry of the mortal Jesus Christ and they are all testimonies of His divinity, His life and His atonement. After the book of Acts, which tells a small amount about the early church and the missionary effort put forth by th0se early Christians, we have a collection of letters sent by church leaders, mostly Paul. The last book, Revelation or Apocalypse, is a vision received and recorded by John. All these testimonies, books and letters, as well as many others that existed then, were circulating among the people. Which of these documents were valid and doctrine were defined to be canon around the fourth century A.D., leading to the particular collection we have today.

Is the Bible itself perfect? Unfortunately, no. There are many variations and translations of the Bible, some of which are vastly different from others. And if it were perfect, wouldn't we all understand it to mean the same thing? How could there be so many different opinions on what the truth of God really is? This is precisely why God did not cease with revelation. He did not give up on us.

So then, what is the Bible? In a nutshell, it is the testimony of prophets among the Jewish people. It is a record. It is a description of Jesus Christ and a testimony that He is the way to eternal life. It describes a perfect being, His perfect gospel and His perfect way. All the prophets since Adam have given their testimonies concerning Christ and His gospel. To receive anyone's testimony of Christ is surely a great blessing. The Book of Mormon is also a blessing like that. It is another such description or testimony of Christ written by prophets not among the Jews, but among other peoples across the world. With both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we can gather a clearer image of what the Lord truly desires of us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Restoration

The Lord follows every apostasy with a new dispensation and a restoration of authority. Here is a short film produced by the Church which shows how the current dispensation was opened through the young man, Joseph Smith.

This is the second half of the same film.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7).

Heavenly Father will answer your prayers, too. Ask Him whether Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer

Doctrine and Covenants 59:13

Usually, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints abstain from two consecutive meals on the first Sunday of every month (yesterday). That Sunday church service is designated for witnessing or bearing testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the members of the congregation. Besides abstaining from food and drink and attending testimony meeting, a true fast also consists of giving a fast offering to care for those in need. The offering, the sum of money that would have been spent on the two skipped meals, is given to the Bishop for any members who are struggling.

The scientific community has caught up with the religious practice and has proven that fasting helps prevent heart disease, speeds up metabolism, gives us more energy and helps our digestive organs run better by giving them a little bit of a break. The LDS church does not recommend fasting too often or for an extended amount of time. A 24 hour fast once a month is what is recommended.

Two prominent reasons for fasting are to improve physical conditions and spiritual development. President Heber J. Grant describes some of the physical blessings of fasting by writing, "Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast and pay into the hands of their bishops the actual amount that they would have spent for food for the two meals from which they have refrained . . . we would have all the money necessary to take care of all the idle and all the poor." (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 123)

Isaiah notes the spiritual benefits and lists them in the 58th chapter of his book. When we obey the law of the fast he says, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward [or rearguard]. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; though shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am." We are promised better health, protection, that we will be closer to the Spirit of the Lord and that the Lord will hear and answer our prayers.

Fasting is regularly employed when trying to discover answers to our questions. In The Book of Mormon the prophet Alma testifies of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the goodness of God and the reality of the Plan of Salvation to the people living in the land called Zarahemla. As he concludes his teachings he proclaims, "Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit" (Alma 5:45-46).

Growing up in an LDS home, skipping breakfast before church was expected on the first Sunday of the month, but it wasn't until I was a teenager that I finally recognized what I could accomplish if I actually fasted and prayed. When I decided that I really wanted to know of the truthfulness of the gospel for myself, I fasted and prayed a couple of times a month to gain the witness that God exists, that He knows who I am, that The Bible is correct, that The Book of Mormon is a true account of Jesus Christ's ministry in America, that Joseph Smith restored the original church back to the Earth and that the current prophet Thomas Spencer Monson is truly called by God to lead us at this time. Prayers alone were not enough. I know that the answers I received and still receive are possible because fasting and prayer help me to be closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Because I have had those experiences in the past, I feel comfortable fasting and praying when I need more guidance in my life now. I often fast and pray for help during stressful times in the school year, at times when I have to make serious choices about my future and especially times when I recognize the need to change my attitudes and habits (all too often). Changes in character are some of the hardest changes to make, but through the strength I receive when I fast and pray I know that I need to and that I can cut away some of my flaws.

When I lived in Uganda last summer I fasted for a number of reasons. I went there to do humanitarian work and "change the world!" I wanted Heavenly Father to show me what I could do that would make the most meaningful impact on the people I worked with. Thinking I could change things or fix problems was incredibly prideful, but I really wanted to make a difference. The biggest difference, of course, was with myself. The scriptures tell us to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, etc., but I have never seen such practical application in my life. Everyone I knew in the U.S.A. had at least five pairs of shoes, plenty of food in the pantry and access to medical attention, but in Lugazi? No. It was while I was walking up and down dirt roads, having little kids who wore the same shirt everyday run up in their bare feet and grab my hands that I realized why we are asked to fast. Not everyone can have the experience I did in East Africa, but fasting gives people everywhere that little taste of discomfort that is so common around the world. It helps us to realize that there is so much work for us to do while Christ is away.

For me, the most important thing about fasting is that we follow Christ's example of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, satisfying the afflicted, becoming closer to our Father in Heaven, and learning to understand the answers we are given. That is how we should act toward each other and toward Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. When we do those things, fasting really is a cause for rejoicing.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Book of Mormon Synopsis: The Small Plates

The Book of Mormon is a record of a people that lived in the Americas between 600BC and 400AD as well as their origins, lives and religion. The record, written on gold plates, was given to Joseph Smith and he was given the ability to translate it from the original language, reformed Egyptian.

The Book of Mormon starts with a title page and introduction to familiarize the reader with the book's purpose and history. As the title page states, the Book of Mormon was written as a witness and testament that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God and that He manifests Himself unto all nations. The final paragraphs of the introduction contains an invitation to read the book and a promise that if one will read it, ponder over the words, and pray to God, asking if the book is true, then an answer will be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. After this invitation, the testimonies of the eight witnesses, the three witnesses and Joseph Smith are given.

The book then begins. Its format is similar to the Bible, in that there are individual books within the greater book and these are divided into chapters and verses. The first book was written by a man named Nephi living in Jerusalem around 600BC and is taken from a record mentioned in the book called the Small Plates of Nephi. The small plates were like a journal that Nephi kept and was passed on in the family for generations. In it, he and others recorded prophecies, teachings and "a few of the things which [they] considered to be most precious." (Jacob 1:2) Nephi made other plates, the large plates, on which he wrote the daily goings-on of his people. That book was passed down from king to king and was eventually abridged by a prophet named Mormon. That abridgement comprises most of the Book of Mormon. The first part, however, is taken directly from the small plates.

Nephi tells the story of his father, Lehi, and his vision. Much the same way that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called to be prophets, Lehi sees a vision of God, learns of His gospel and is sent among the people to warn them of their wickedness and the impeding doom of the city. Predictably, he is rejected by the people and threats are made on his life (Jeremiah is probably in prison at this time) so the Lord commands him to take his family and absquatulate into the desert. Nephi records their experiences, trials and the things they learn about Christ and His gospel as they travel eight years through the desert from Jerusalem to an unknown point on the Arabian coast where they build a boat, according the Lord's directions, and cross the ocean to the promised land.

Some time after arriving, Lehi gives his dying words to his children and grandchildren and passes away. It didn't take long for Nephi's oldest brothers, Laman and Lemuel, to try and kill Nephi. They had been complaining, rebelling and plotting Nephi's death since they left Jerusalem because they did not believe that Lehi had a vision nor did they believe in God all that much. Nephi took his wife, kids and anyone else who would listen away from Laman's group so they could live peacefully and worship God. From that time until the very end of the book, the two main groups are referred to as Nephites and Lamanites.

Nephi spends the rest of his book writing down a few of his thoughts and feelings, but mostly prophecies and teachings and many words of the prophet Isaiah. Nephi then passes the metal plates he used to write on, to his brother Jacob and dies. Jacob continues to write and records a few of his sermons to the people and passes them to his son, Enos. The tradition continues for several generations, each of them writing a little until one man, who had no children, passes the plates on to the king, a righteous man named Benjamin. By this time, over 450 years had passed since Lehi and his family had left Jerusalem.

During the time that this record was kept, the Nephites and Lamanites fought against each other and had several wars. At one point, the Nephite king, Mosiah, was warned by the Lord to leave their lands and go north. He took as many people with him as would listen and left their city to find a new place to live. Mosiah was led by the Lord and found an entire city of people called Zarahemla. Their history is largely unknown except that they were originally led by Mulek out of Jerusalem when Babylon invaded Jerusalem in 585 BC. The two groups merged and Mosiah, followed by his son Benjamin, became their king. That marks the end of the small plates.

The most remarkable thing about these writings is how much Nephi and his descendants knew about the coming Messiah. Nephi was shown the birth of Jesus in a vision and understood the miraculous power of the atonement. He writes, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 2:26). We share this book with you, and with the whole world for the same purpose. Please take the opportunity to read it for yourself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jesus the Christ

Among Christ's titles is "Alpha and Omega," signifying the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. His influence can be felt from one end of eternity to the other, as well as all along the way. Every aspect of Mormonism focuses on Him; we revere Him as our God, our Creator, our Brother, and our King.

"In the Beginning...
...was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1-3)

Jesus, like all of us, existed before birth. He was an important figure in our premortal family as the birthright, first-begotten Son of the Father, and our eldest and wisest brother. As our leader, He championed the causes of justice, mercy and free will. He was appointed to be our Savior. We had faith in Him. We followed Him willingly and loved Him.

Under the Father's direction, Jesus created the heavens and the earth. He made them beautiful and fruitful. But it wasn't just an art project; earth was to be a testing ground for all God's children. Jesus said, "We will prove them herewith to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;" (Abraham 3:25)

And command them, He did. Jesus is identified in the Old Testament as Jehovah, the great "I Am." He told Noah to build an ark; He spoke to Moses face to face; it was His presence that rested upon the tabernacle of Israel within a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Over the centuries, He spoke to Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, Nephi, and many other noble prophets of Israel.

Their messages (which were always His message) were invariably teachings of repentance, obedience, and foretelling of the coming Messiah, who would one day deliver them.

"And the Word was made flesh...

...and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:14, 11)

Mary, a virgin maiden from Nazareth became miraculously pregnant: an angel appeared to her and said, "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS." (Luke 1:31) When He was born in Bethlehem, He became the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. From His mother, he inherited mortality; from His Father, he received power over death.

At the age of thirty, He began His ministry. Jesus was a profound teacher, a miracle worker, and the only perfect, whole man to walk the earth. Not only did He avoid sin in all its forms, but He exhibited all virtues in completeness, providing us with the best example to follow. His love for His Father and for others was perfect and pure. Although He was popular among common folks, He upset the status quo of the reigning religious leaders, and they opted to eliminate Him. They submitted Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate to be executed.

He knew His execution was imminent, but something weightier was on His mind: the souls of all people. He had been chosen by the Father to be the sacrificial lamb -- to atone for the sins of mankind. He prayed long and hard in the garden of Gethsemane that fateful night. At first He hesitated, pleading for some other way, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done." (Luke 22:42)

The consequences of sin are death and suffering. Jesus suffered in Gethsemane, then died by crucifixion on Calvary the following day.

But the sins were not His; they were ours.

Why did He do it? Jesus later spoke these words to the prophet Joseph Smith:

"For behold, I, God have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (Doctrine & Covenants 19:16,18-19).

"He is not here, but is risen"
(Luke 23:6).

On the third day after His death, before He was even fully interred in his tomb, Jesus arose (Mark 16:1-2). He showed His fully-perfected physical body to Mary and to His disciples; they saw the nail prints in his hands and feet and knew it was the Lord. His ministry continued another forty days, long enough to more fully establish His Church with the apostles. Then "he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9).

Why didn't He stick around? For one thing, He had another pressing matter. He had earlier told His apostles, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." (John 10:16).
We have record of at least one group of His "other sheep" in the Book of Mormon. He was met by the Nephites and Lamanites with celebration and enthusiasm (3 Nephi 11). We are certain He visited other groups, but we have not yet received records of these visits.

Jesus has remained alive in an immortal and perfect physical body ever since. He showed himself to Stephen, Saul, John, Mormon, Moroni, and many others, including the pious fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith. He has promised, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8).

As in ancient times, the prophets dispense the Savior's message to the world, including a witness "that He lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God;" (Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-23).

"The Lord himself shall descend...
...from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
We still await the Savior's triumphant second coming. He will reveal himself to everyone altogether then, and the graves of the righteous will open for their turn at resurrection.

We will all recognize Him as King (some with dismay or anxiety), "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:11-12). He will reign personally for a thousand years; then, the wicked will finally be resurrected, and each of us who has lived in this world will receive our final judgment from Jesus the Christ.

And what better judge could we ask for? Jesus knows us best, having been among us from the very beginning. He created the world and even walked among us in mortality. He felt our pains and afflictions and temptations and death itself; all so He would know how to relieve us (see Alma 7:11-12). He is our righteous leader and king. We can have faith in Him. We can love Him with all our hearts.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Missions of the Church

As a teenager, one of the things we were taught over and over was that the Church had a three-fold mission: Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, Redeem the Dead. This is the basis of all of the programs, lessons, ordinances, callings and everythingness of the Church.

As I taught the gospel in Russia, however, I understood better that these weren't three separate entities that we were supposed to divide our time and attention between. These are all part of the main mission of the church:
Bringing people to Christ.
This is the ultimate goal of Christ's church, and it applies to every person on the face of the earth.

Perfecting the Saints is the broad label given to all of the ordinances and activities of the Church. It comes from Christ's directive both in Matthew and in the Book of Mormon to "Be ye therefore perfect, [even as I] or your Father in Heaven is perfect." In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believers and members of the Church are called "Saints". Yes, just everyday people in the grocery store are Saints. In this context, Saints are those who are following Christ's teachings and trying very hard to live as He has asked them to live. Perfecting the Saints is no easy task, and here are some of the ways that Saints work on perfecting themselves:

  • Sincerely praying and studying the word of God.
  • Attending the temple to make covenants with God.
  • Attending weekly church meetings
  • Volunteering to serve in any number of "callings" in their congregation. From the leader of the congregation right down to the person collecting lesson manuals after class, everyone is donating their time, energy and talents to serve the Lord and each other. We don't have a paid clergy.
  • Striving to have strong families through Family Home Evening, family prayer, family vacations, family meals, family reunions, and just generally supporting and loving each other in the family.
  • Living the commandments as found here, here and here.
We truly believe that in doing what Christ has asked us to do, we draw nearer to Him and as we are closer to Him, we are more perfect. That's what this life is all about.

Proclaim the Gospel addresses the next group of people who need to come to Christ--those who aren't already members of His church. The LDS church has thousands of missionaries all over the world, teaching Christ's doctrines to cossacks, Buddhists, ninjas and pygmies, and everyone else in between. Every single person on this earth is invited to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. This aspect of Church activities is very much tied in with the first mission of perfecting the saints, because when a person is baptized into the church, they are one step closer to Christ.

Redeeming the Dead strikes people as one of the most bizarre of our doctrines. We do temple work for our deceased ancestors so that they can choose to accept the ordinances in the spirit world (if they wish to--our ordinances are not binding on them if they don't want them). But in the context of bringing every single person to Christ, this practice fits perfectly. The church was restored on the earth in 1830, 1750 years after Christ's church and its authority disappeared from the earth. There were a lot of people in those 1750 years, and they are each, individually important to Christ. He atoned for them too, and if they are to benefit from His sacrifice, they need to do what He's asked them to do to be admitted into His church (baptism by immersion, followed by higher ordinances and covenants). He asks members of His church to reach out to those who have passed on as well as to the living.

So that sums up all of the Church's activities and programs. Christ wants us all to come unto Him and be perfected in Him. For members of the church, that involves living His commandments and serving others. Some of that service is directed at helping other people join His church to also come unto Him and be perfected in Him--living and dead.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Question Box: Why Temple Marriage?

Q: Why do you have to get married in the temple? Besides the ordinances that are performed, do you really think God will only allow people who were married in the temple, to stay married in heaven and no one else?

This is an excellent question. We do believe that you must be married and sealed in the temple of the Lord for the marriage to continue after this life. Having said that, I realize that we are not the only people on this earth who love their families and desire to be with them forever. We believe that the family is divinely organized. It is the fundamental unit of society. Therefore, it is no wonder to me that each of us desires to be with our families and loved ones forever.

Because marriage is ordained of God, the ordinance must be performed by His authority, and in His way for it to be eternal. In that way it is just like baptism, the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost, or any other ordinance of God. In talking with the Hebrews about the priesthood, Paul said, "And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" Hebrews 5:4. (See Leviticus 8 for a description of how Aaron received the priesthood.) Merely wishing for your marriage to last after this life will not make it so.

There are priesthood holders today who are authorized to seal husbands and wives for all time and eternity. They perform these ordinances in temples, which are the most holy places of worship on the earth. (See the article, "Why Mormons" for a better explanation of how this priesthood was restored to the earth.) Even members of the LDS church must live clean, worthy lives to enter the House of the Lord, and then those who are sealed together must keep the covenants they have made in order to have their families forever.

With this understanding, it may be easier for others to see why Mormons are so anxious to spread the gospel throughout the earth. We know that God loves all people and desires all to have eternal happiness. That is why we are willing to go on missions and take every opportunity possible to share our testimonies, so that we can help as many people as possible enjoy these blessings of God.

Now, you may ask about all those who never had an opportunity to go to the temple to be sealed. Are they just denied? No. Through the Lord's loving grace and mercy, He makes eternal marriage possible for everyone who has not had these opportunities during their mortal lives. It is through vicarious work for the dead. This means that in holy temples we may perform ordinances for the dead, including baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, sealing a husband and wife in marriage, and other essential ordinances for our salvation and eternal happiness.

Vicarious work for the dead is not new with the restoration of the Church through Joseph Smith. The Apostle Paul spoke about baptisms for the dead in his epistle to the Corinthian members who were questioning if there really was going to be a resurrection. As part of his response he stated, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:29). Truly this work is a sign of the true church of Christ on the earth.

For me, the principle of eternal marriage is one of the sweetest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope that everyone, everywhere would rejoice in knowing that they can be together with their loved ones forever and that God has revealed how to accomplish it. I hope that you and all people would seek to have this blessing in their lives.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book of Mormon Stories: The Iron Rod

Lehi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, was warned by the Lord that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed and was told to leave into the wilderness. While in the wilderness, Lehi had a peculiar dream.

In his dream, Lehi found himself in a dark and dreary wilderness and saw a man in a white robe standing in front of him. The man told Lehi to follow him but Lehi was soon lost and he traveled for many hours. No doubt being tired and afraid of not knowing where to go, Lehi prayed. No sooner had he prayed, when we saw that he was in a large and spacious field and he saw a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. He saw that the tree and its fruit were white and the taste of the fruit was sweet and gave him great joy.

The joy and sweetness of the fruit gave him the desire to share with those he loved most: his family. As he looked around, he saw that a river ran by the tree. He soon saw his wife and youngest two sons, Nephi and Sam, far off, and that they too seemed to be lost. Lehi called to them and they came and also ate the fruit. Wanting his older two sons, Laman and Lemuel, to be there too, he looked farther up the river. When he saw them, he called out to them, but they would not come.

Alongside the river, an iron rod stretched from the tree off into the distance by where the river began. That large field now seemed to be as large as a world, and it was filled with countless people that were trying to get to the tree. A mist then covered the whole area so that the people could not see. Many wandered off and were lost but others held the iron rod in their hands and followed it to the tree. Some of those who made it to the tree, ate the fruit but then looked around and were ashamed. Lehi looked for the cause of this shame and saw a large building that looked like it was floating in the air. The people in that building were all dressed very nicely and were pointing fingers and mocking those by the tree.Lehi watched and saw people get lost in the mist and others drown in the river; many followed the iron rod to the tree and the rest found their way to the large building to join the others in mocking and putting down those by the tree.

The meaning of this dream may not be immediately clear to everyone. It wasn't to Lehi's son, Nephi, but Nephi had enough faith that God would answer his prayers, so he took his questions to the Lord in prayer. In response to that prayer, Nephi also had a vision, where he saw the meaning of the dream and of Jesus Christ's mission on earth and His love and gospel. He learned that the tree represents the love of God for us. That iron rod that led to the tree was the word of God, given through His prophets and that if we held onto those words, we would find the love of God and receive joy because of it. The people in the dream are each one of us, trying to find our way through the mists of temptations. Many people fail to grasp the words of the Lord and get lost or drown in the filthy waters that represented that "awful hell that separates the wicked from the tree of life." The large building that held those that opposed God represented the wisdom and pride of the world. Nephi saw its destruction and "the fall thereof was exceedingly great."
Lehi's dream can be found in 1 Nephi 8 and Nephi's vision in 1 Nephi 11. Nephi sees much more than this and I invite everyone to read about it in chapters 12 - 14. In 1 Nephi 15, Nephi explains the meaning of the dream to his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Question Box: Temples

Q. What and how do you learn at the temple?

A. The temple in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the most sacred and holy edifice that we have. The ordinance of baptism is essential to entering the kingdom of God; however it is the mere departure point or gate to a life of learning. As a member of our church grows in knowledge, they are encouraged to prepare themselves to attend the temple to be taught even more.

First, I want to discuss the question, “how do we learn at the temple?” God has always used symbolism to teach his children. For instance, Jesus taught in parables (symbolic stories), partly so that a wide range of people who were all at different stages of learning and understanding could be taught at once. This is no different in the temple. Virtually all teaching in the temple is accomplished in a symbolic way. For instance, have you ever wondered why the LDS temples are usually set on a hill, where they can be viewed easily, and are lit up at night? This is a symbol of the light of the Gospel that will eventually fill the whole earth. Or why is there a gold statute of an angel sounding a trumpet on the highest spire? This is a symbol that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has once more been restored to the earth and will be sounded to all nations. Or how about the exterior of the Salt Lake temple? On the lower level there are stars, the next level the moon and higher yet, the sun. This symbolizes the kingdoms of heaven, but also how we acquire more light and truth as we progress. These are three small examples of things we can learn from the outside of the temple.

To learn effectively in the temple one needs to come to the temple in humility, being willing to be taught. We attend the temple as often as we can, because each time we are able to understand better what God is trying to teach us. In essence, the way we learn in the temple is the same way we learn in life, step by step and line upon line, receiving more knowledge, as we are able to understand it.

At this point I want to comment on why the members of our church who have attended the temple do not talk openly about what occurs in the temple. First, these places and what takes place in them is sacred and there is no reason to flaunt before the world that which is sacred. I doubt that Moses said everything that he learned on Mount Sinai. After all, he was up there for forty days, certainly all he learned wasn’t the Ten Commandments. I know that many are curious about what takes place here, but mere curiosity and interest does not qualify a person for receiving this knowledge from God. God imparts knowledge only when we are ready to receive it. Thus, we hold things back and shield them from the world. Not because we are ashamed of them, but because our knowledge is sacred. I will say though, that nothing occurs that would be offensive to anyone.

To address the question of what does one learn in the temple I will say this, within these sacred buildings we are taught more fully the plan of salvation and how we, as God’s children, can receive all of the blessings that He wants to give us. More specifically we learn about the nature of God, the relationship between God and man, the creation of the earth and man, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the role that Jesus Christ plays in our salvation.

I do wish to inform you that before a temple of the LDS church is dedicated for use, it is opened to the public for tours—anyone, including those not of our faith can walk through on a guided tour. If there is one in your area being constructed, please take this opportunity to go on a tour, to see and feel for yourself the grandeur and awesomeness (proper usage of the word) of these buildings. Here is a link that shows the temples in operation and those that are currently being constructed. From this site you can find out when the open house for a particular temple will be. The Draper Utah temple will be having an open house from January 15-March 14, 2009.

Thanks for your inquiry.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mormon Dating Question

Q. Why do you have to be 16 to date?

Great question. And you can be sure it's one I asked myself many a time as a 15-year-old buck surrounded by a veritable plethora of charming young ladies.

This Mormon standard is spelled out in "For the Strength of Youth," which is a booklet of principles and morals that the youth of the church are expected to live by. In the section on dating it says, "Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner."

A former prophet of the church, President Gordon B. Hinckley, also remarked on this topic when he said, "The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. . . . It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating" (read the amazing talk in its entirety here).

So there you have it. It's the age that the leaders of the Church have set under inspiration from God. Their reasons for doing this are given in the above two statements. I see the whole thing as similar to the age requirement to be baptized. You have to be at least 8-years-old to be baptized and, while there doesn't seem to be anything particularly special about the age of 8, Heavenly Father knew that setting that age as the standard would be in our best interest.

Plus, how are you going to pick up a date anyway before you have your drivers license? Take it from me, two people on one bike is painful. But then again, it might be a nice sneaky way to get close (uncomfortably close) to that special someone... At any rate, just wait to date and, believe me, it'll work out great.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Question Box: What if a married couple does not want children?

Q. What if a married couple does not want children?

Before I get into that, I'd like to reiterate a bit why Mormons do have children and the importance that is placed on the family.

As is stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World: "We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." I think that speaks for itself: Mormons believe that it is God's will that we have children.

Children are a blessing. They are such a source of joy. Parenting is, by no means an easy task. And when my toddlers are screaming and fighting each other while the baby's crying to be fed and dinner's on the stove and the phone is ringing, I would say that no high-powered CEO has higher stress levels! But it is a challenge with wondrously rich rewards. Children help teach us humility and selflessness. In teaching our children to come to Christ, we become more sure of our own testimonies. I don't mean this patronizingly, but if you don't have children of your own, I don't think you can truly understand the profound depth of the emotion of looking into your newborn's face and seeing that first smile or hearing your sweet, innocent toddler come tell you "I love you". Seeing your children making good decisions and knowing that you're doing an okay job raising them is so fulfilling and rewarding. I have to be honest, I don't really understand why anyone wouldn't want these blessings.

However, it takes all types and not everyone in the world is like me. Variety truly is the spice of life and there are those who don't wish to have children. For some, it may be an issue of feeling inadequate and being intimidated by the idea of parenting. For others it may just be wanting to sacrifice the time and money that raising children requires. I don't know all the reasons why but I know that children will bless your life. I know that God will help those who feel inadequate rise to the task. I would never suggest that a couple have children when they're not prepared for parenting to some degree, even if most of that preparation is simply the desire to be good parents. Remember that God can change a heart that is willing to submit to His will. He can prepare a couple for parenting and foster in them a desire to be good parents just as He can work other miracles.

A couple who doesn't want children will not be scorned in the Church. Everyone is entitled to their choices. The choice to have children and how many to have are ultimately decisions solely between the couple and God. But remember, it is God's will that we multiply and fill the earth. And those who, for selfish reasons, do not desire to have children would do well to remember the rich man who came to Christ and was told to sacrifice all his riches: Christ requires sacrifice and selflessness of those who would call themselves His followers. I would encourage couples to remember this, and pray for the Lord's direction and guidance in this personal matter. He will help you sacrifice and come to Him.

Indeed, I think that part of the blessing parenting affords is a closer relationship with the Lord as we learn to rely on His guidance and direction to bring our children up in righteousness. We also come to understand to some minute degree His position as Father of us all.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Years' Resolution

About this time of year, many people get excited about the new year. A new year can be a new beginning and an excellent point to check life's milestones, past goals and access one's personal situation in life. It doesn't necessarily take a new year to do this, but it seems like a good time to start anew. Coming up on this new year, I have heard and listened to a few people talk about their resolutions and others (in church for example) speak about how best to go about fulfilling those resolutions because, let's face it, everyone has had goals that were never completed and that were eventually discarded. This year, I'm thinking about a new approach.

Whether it is dieting, taking up a new hobby, catching up on reading or starting an exercising routine, change can be difficult. Getting into the habit can be the hardest part and discouragement can often take place soon after beginning and possibly soon before ending for good.

But how about this for a new years' resolution: a surrendering of one's will completely and wholly to the Lord. That's a worthy goal, is it not? It goes along with Christ's injunction, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:25) Should we find ourselves lost in the cause of Christ, our will being given to Him, we will find our life, that is, eternal life. No doubt He has our best interests in mind and would not lead us astray, why not follow Him?

More practically, however, we find ourselves less able to follow through with this than often we would like. Why is that? What prevents us from keeping in line with His teachings? Often, I find myself thoroughly dedicated at one moment, but then find my resolve slipping and my condition back to what is once was. Yes there are temptations but ought not we to be able to overcome such?

There are a few reasons for this, and I'd like to address one in particular. I have found in my own life, that even though my desire to improve is pure and my resolve strong, there are weaknesses because I am not thorough enough and there is usually something else in which I allow myself indulgence. How can I receive full strength from the Lord in breaking a bad habit when I willfully allow myself to continue in other habits. Maybe those habits aren't even so bad. A bit of impatience toward a stranger. A little dishonesty. Or even just a few hours wasted in front of a TV or computer, time that could be spent being more productive. Moreover, the pride in me says that I can do these things and nothing bad will come of it because they are so small and insignificant. The temptation to keep doing these things is there while I make an attempt with my new resolution and I am weakened because my will is divided. My new years' resolution then is to be undivided.

If you want to apply this principle in your life, go ahead! The way is clear for anyone to do so. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have taken on a covenant, or a promise with God, that we will be willing to take upon ourselves Christ's name, keep His commandments and always remember Him. There is no division or conditions in those words. Submit our will to take upon His name, keep the commandments, always remember Him. That is my goal this year and I invite everyone to do the same. Really and truly apply the phrase, "What Would Jesus Do?" in your life. Is it a sacrifice? Indeed it is. But it is worth every bit.